Friday, November 12, 2010

The Gig

I'm lucky enough to be in a band of local musicians who get called together a couple of times a year to perform at some pretty good gigs.  This weekend's event is to be the band for Robin Mark for a sold-out crowd of around a thousand.  In preparing for the concert I came across an old journal entry I wrote after one of the first gigs I played with this particular band.  It was fun to reflect back on those early experiences.

It's the afternoon before the show.  We set up and do a sound-check.  Somebody comes by and asks me if I have enough water.   They put a couple of bottles next to the piano.  Someone comes by and gives me an all-access pass on a lanyard.  It says "music team".

There's a door and it says "no admittance".  I go in anyway. I guess that's what the lanyard is for.  Down the hall past a number of paintings of flowers in earth-tone colors is another door; this one says "Headquarters".  Behind the doors is a large room and a few men with laptops.  At one of the tables a bunch of guys are sitting around cracking jokes and eating Smarties.   It's the rest of the band. I sit down with them and everything goes back to normal... stories about 80's rock bands and stupid musician jokes... "what's the difference between a cello and a coffin?"

Some guy runs in and says "We're on the 5 minute countdown now!".  Mark, the front man, say "OK guys we're going on in 2 minutes, lose the lanyards for the stage".  We walk out in the dark and behind some black curtains out onto the stage.  There are spot lights sweeping through the smoke from a fog machine and two giant screens behind the stage with a computer-generated 3D countdown timer projected on them, and a soundtrack with drums and sound effects.  All of the sudden that cuts out and it goes black.  Mark says "Let's go" and I hit a big fat G-chord on my Triton that I dialed up with an awesome-sounding motion pad.  The sound sweeps out through the mains and rumbles out of the subs.  Its loud.  Lights come up on the stage and Dave comes in on the acoustic guitar.  We vamp for about 8 bars, everybody stands up, then we launch into the opening song and the sound of about 1000 people singing along comes back at us.  The energy is high.  We flow from one song to another and the energy level stays very high.  You can sense it between the band and the audience.  If the band loses it the audience will come down as well.  We stay on top of the wave and the set finishes.  It goes dark and we walk back to our room to eat more Smarties and have a debriefing.

Later we go back on stage for another set.  I'm going to open this one with some solo piano.  I'm waiting for a cue, and I can feel my pulse pounding.  It's irritating.  I start breathing really slow and deep.  The announcer is taking his time, so after a couple of minutes my pulse is no longer pounding.  The adrenaline rush usually only lasts a couple of minutes.  If you get the adrenaline rush over with before you actually start playing, then you're not in panic mode when you start to perform.  It really helps if you can play with the band first before you have to do any solo stuff.  The spotlight comes on and I start playing, feeling a lot more relaxed.  The spotlight is too bright and all the keys look brilliant blue/white.

At the end after everyone is gone, the crew starts tearing down.  We load up our instruments and all go to a 24-hour restaurant.  It's late when I finally get home and I'm suddenly very tired.

1 comment:

Mike and Norma said...

Wow, quite the experience. I sure admire you for having the "nerves of steel" to be able to do that. Someone told me a very long time ago that to be a concert pianist (or anything else I guess) one has to have nerves of steel. I knew right then and there that would never be me :-) . Good for you. Glad for the opportunities you've had and hope will have!

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